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Restorative Justice and Wrongful Capital Convictions: A Simple Proposal

Burnett, Cathleen
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. 21(3): 272-289.

In discussions regarding how to compensate those wrongfully convicted of serious crimes and imprisoned most of the strategies focus on the legal system as the appropriate arena for a remedy. The problem with legal remedies, however, is the unintended consequences that create barriers to reintegrating the wrongfully convicted back into society. Following a review of the problem, which is that those wrongfully convicted of serious crimes are not eligible for the minimal State supports offered to offenders released from prisons and are thus less prepared to reintegrate into society. In cases where they are eligible for the minimal supports, that is all they received in the form of legal redress. Most States do not have well-defined mechanisms to compensate those wrongfully convicted and only 20 States have mechanisms for seeking some amount of financial redress. The solutions currently available to compensate the wrongfully convicted are presented and critiqued as less than adequate. The three main types of solutions, lawsuits, private legislation, and private donations, all grew out of the legal system’s traditional justice model. The author presents a restorative justice solution to compensate the wrongfully convicted that is extrajudicial and is grounded in the executive branch’s responsibility to provide for the administration of justice. The main argument is that State resources should help the wrongfully convicted integrate back into their legitimate community life; an emphasis is placed on community participation and support. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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